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Scott Gibson

Scott Gibson

Chief Information Officer, Senior Vice President of Information Technology, Distribution, and Strategic Services
Best Western International, Inc.


What are some of your responsibilities?
My responsibilities are really rather broad. I have all the core technology areas, of course, including operations, technical support, applications development, architecture, networks, voice and so on. But in addition to that, I also oversee our reservations call center operation, which generates about $300 million in room revenue per year. And I have the electronic distribution channels, including our relationships with the global distribution systems and online travel agencies - those generate another $300 million in room revenue. And finally, I oversee Best Western's Strategic Services team, which helps the executive team with business planning, performance measurement and process improvement.

What do you like most about your job?
The thing I like most about my job is the extent to which it is not about technology. Best Western is a unique organization in the hotel industry, and the relationship we have with our hotelier members is unlike that of any other hotel company to their franchisees. A big part of my job as the CIO is to be an advocate, to be convincing - if we want to introduce a new technology product or undertake a new technology initiative, it is my job to stand up in front of our members and help them to understand what we want to do, and why we want to do it, and, hopefully, convince them to embrace it. That can be challenging, but, in the end, if I can't convince them that it is a good idea, maybe it isn't a good idea after all.

What do you like least about your job?
If the good thing about being a CIO is to be in a position to help an organization use technology to be more efficient and more effective, the bad thing about being a CIO is that it is impossible to do everything that needs to be done. There is just too much opportunity, all the time, and in the end, you can't avoid disappointing people as you just can't do everything they can think up. It is the curse of the job, I think, more so than any other major role. You are always making choices, and by making choices, you are always disappointing one customer or another.

Where did you go to school? What was your major?
I dropped out of college to join the Army. I went to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., and I majored in history. But at that time in my life, I was pretty directionless, and I dropped out after a year. I grew up in a military family, so after doing nothing for a year or so, when the money started to run out, I ran for the cover of the military. I spent five years in the infantry, which was good for me, but a lot of the training the Army gave me proved problematic when it came to finding jobs in the real world.

What is your favorite movie?
If pressed, I would have to say, "Casablanca." If you asked me another time, though, I might say, "Lawrence of Arabia" or "Schindler's List." But "Casablanca" is always near the top.

What is your favorite song?
I don't think I can name one. The thing I listen to most, that I always come back to, is the film music composed by Ennio Morricone. There's a CD that has been out a few years, Morricone collaborating with Yo Yo Ma on new recordings of some of his best film music, and I listen to it all the time. So, 'The Ecstacy of Gold," from the movie, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," by Ennio Morricone - that's my favorite song, until I think of another.

What is your favorite line from a movie or song?
"I'm shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here!"
"Your winnings, sir."
"Oh. Thank you very much."
One of the reasons I like "Casablanca" so much is that it is full of great lines. Rick's being grilled by the Gestapo, they're showing them their file on his activities, and his response, "Are my eyes really brown?" It kills me.

What was your first job?
When I left the Army, I got a job working at Ramada in Phoenix. They had an opening for a junior-level computer operations person, someone who would take care of the printers and collect and process the overnight reports for distribution throughout the offices. The chief requirement for this job was to be able to show up very early, to get all the reports out before 9:00 a.m., and my Army experience apparently qualified me for that. So, that's how I got into the hotel technology business.

What was your most interesting day at work?
There are too many to count. I used to work for Anasazi, in the good old days, customizing and implementing their reservation systems, so I did a lot of reservation system cutovers. Those were always high-energy days, with a great sense of accomplishment at the end. At Best Western, I find our member conventions to be really interesting. Meeting with our members, developing relationships with them - it is an opportunity I've never had at my other jobs, and I really enjoy it.

What would you do if you won the lottery?
I'd pay my taxes. I'm not going to be one of those guys you read about, who ends up going to jail for not paying their taxes after winning the lottery.

When you are not working, what do you enjoy doing?
I read a lot, I love movies, I cook and I like to travel. I get to travel a lot in my job, and when we're going somewhere interesting, I always try to take a little extra time to explore.

What is the next technology to impact the hospitality industry?
Well, that's the question, isn't it? If I had to guess, I think it will be how PDAs evolve to identity cards, credit cards and debit cards. A lot of people have spent time working on how to deliver reservations functionality to the PDA or mobile phone, but I think the real value will come when the PDA checks us into the hotel wirelessly, and when it acts as our room key, or when it checks us out and pays our bill for us. That capability will revolutionize how we think about the front desk and the check-in and check-out processes. 

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